Discipleship: Worship

What is worship?

What do you think of when you hear the word worship? Meeting together at church? Singing hymns or praise songs? While the church meeting is called a worship service, true worship is not primarily a corporate act, but an individual lifestyle and mindset. Yes, we all meet together to worship, but this is primarily to edify the body, to build up the church, which is only one way to worship God.

The hebrew word for worship, “shachah”, means to bow down, to prostrate oneself, to reverence, to do homage. The greek word, “proskuneo”, means to kiss the hand in token of reverence, as someone would do when bowing before a ruler. “Proskeneo” also means to kneel or to prostrate oneself.

The bowing the head, … may probably refer to the eastern custom of bowing the head down to the knees, then kneeling down and touching the earth with the forehead. This was a very painful posture and the most humble in which the body could possibly be placed.

– Adam Clarke

Other greek words for worship are “seboma” which means to revere, and “latreuo” which means to serve. The english word “worship” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “weorthscipe” which means “worth-ship”. To worship God is the conscious expression of how much you value God, expressing His worth to you.

God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, And to be held in reverence by all those around Him.

– Psalms 89:7

As believers you and I are called to worship. We are to do this continually – not just one or two hours on Sunday. This means worship is a way of life. It is living your life in a way that brings glory to God:

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

– Hebrews 13:15

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

– 1 Peter 2:9

We now have a restored relationship with God through the death of Christ. Hence, every moment of the day we can commune with God. The Spirit led life, according to the truth, is worship, whether we are conscious of it or not. Despite our sinful nature, Jesus’ gift of forgiveness allows us to enter spiritually into God’s presence all the time. Through faith in Jesus we can live in an intimate relationship with God all day every day.

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Why should I worship God?

Worship is the natural response of someone who appreciates God and what He has done. In the end, everyone will worship God the Father and Jesus Christ – every knee will bow:

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

– Philippians 2:9-11

Even those who never acknowledged God in this life, who denied He even existed, who will spend an eternity in hell, will be compelled to worship Him at the final judgement.

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

– Revelation 13:8

Obviously their worship will not come from love, but it will come from an appreciation of who God is.

However, as one who was lost, but now has been rescued from an eternity in hell to an eternity in heaven with God, your worship should be a response to the love God has already shown you. Worship should arise because you want to worship, not because you have to. Your worship must come from the heart.

The outward forms of worship include both words and actions. With words you praise God. You acknowledge both who He is and what He has done. God has done much for you that you need to praise and thank Him for. The Israelites were instructed to worship God because He brought them out of Egypt:

“but the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice.

– 2 Kings 17:36

You and I are also to worship God for what He has done:

saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

– Revelation 14:7

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…

– Revelation 5:9

Yet what God has done (or will do) for you is not the only reason for worship. God is worthy of your praise just for who He is – regardless of what He has done. His actions are a result of His nature. He is absolutely holy and righteous. If He were not, then you would have a lot less to be thankful for.

Give to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness !

– 1 Chronicles 16:29

Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

– Psalms 29:2

Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His footstool – He is holy.

– Psalms 99:5

Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”

– Revelation 15:4

When John first announced Christ as the Lamb of God, he added: “which taketh away the sin of the world” (verse 29), thus emphasizing his redeeming work. The second time he did so, however, he simply said: “Behold the Lamb of God!” Here the accent was not so much on the work as on the Person. Real appreciation means that people are precious to us for their own sakes. We come to love them more for what they are then for what they have done. So it should be with our appreciation of Christ. We thank the Lord for his gifts, but we praise him for his worth. Christ on the Cross calls forth from us our amazed thanksgiving; Christ on the throne our praise. We behold what he has done and we are profoundly grateful; we behold who he is and we adore.

– W. Nee

So worship God not only for what He has done, but for who He is.

How should we worship God?

Many people are concerned with the outward forms of worship: tradition, liturgy and ritual, but God is concerned with what is going on with the inner man. When the Samaritan woman mentioned how the Jews said worship must happen in Jerusalem, Jesus responded with where true worship must really happen:

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

– John 4:24 (ACV)

“In spirit” means from the heart – not just the body doing it’s outward actions while the mind is elsewhere. Worship is a heart attitude thing. But it becomes evident through outward expression. Don’t confuse the inward with the outward. Outward expression without inward attitude and focus is not true worship – it is hypocrisy.

“In truth” means to worship God for who He really is, not just how you want Him to be. Don’t try to fit God into your own mold ( Exodus 32:1-7, Romans 1:21-23).

The common quality to all forms of worship is sincerity. It must come from the heart, not just something you do roboticly. Just going to church and doing the routine is not worship. Sunday worship service is not entertainment or ritual. It is not in singing or saying certain words. Jesus said that outward action without the heart is vanity:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

– Matthew 15:8-9 (HNV)

Malachi is a book about God’s glory, and how the Jewish priests were not properly worshiping Him. Israel’s purpose was to glorify God among the nations, but they were failing in their purpose. The priests were sacrificing sick and lame animals, and considering their service a burden (“weariness”). This was not true worship. They had ceased to be aware of God’s presence.

Not only does lack of sincerity prevent true worship, so does worshipping God in a way that doesn’t glorify Him – that displeases Him. Israel was forbidden to worship God in the same way that the Canaanites worshiped their gods (Deuteronomy 12:29-31, 18:10). That would not glorify God.

Sin also will hinder worship. Jesus said that if someone has something against you, you are to seek to restore your relationship with that person before worshipping God (Matthew 5:23-24). This is because your relationship with others will affect your relationship with God.

Whereever and whenever you worship, be aware that you are in God’s presence. It is a great privilege to worship God! Treat it as such – don’t take it for granted, or it ceases to be worship.

Soren Kierkegaard in “Purity of Heart” gave an excellent contrast of Christian worship and a performance of a public play. He stated that in a Danish production there were three main parts to a presentation: the people in the audience, the actors on the stage, and those who prompted behind the scenes. When it came to worship, Kierkegaard saw a reversal in the role of each participant. The worshiper was the actor and God was, to Kierkegaard, the audience. The worship leaders were the prompters that helped bring the two together. He felt that worship was not something done by the worship leaders for the sake of the worshipers; it was, rather, what the worshiper does for God out of a deep reverence. We must never forget that worship is directly related to God and the transaction that God initiates with the individual. Worship when it is focused first toward God becomes a life-changing experience.

– William P. Cubine in James W. Cox, The Minister’s Manual, HarperCollins, 1996, p. 60-61.

Worship is not an experience we have in the presence of God, but the act of offering God our best when we are in His presence.

– Robert Webber

…and you are always in God’s presence. Experience’s focus is on yourself. Worship’s focus is on God.

As you get to know God, as well as yourself, your love for Him will grow and you will want to worship Him. Your focus will not be on what you can do for God but on who He is and what He has done for you. It is like the difference between Martha and Mary in Luke 10. Martha was concerned with serving Jesus, but Mary was content with just sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

– Luke 10:38-42

Learn to eagerly seek God’s presence. The psalmists expressed it like this:

My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

– Psalms 84:2

One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.

– Psalms 27:4

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

– Psalms 84:10

True worship happens inside you, regardless of where you may be. But it spills out into your outside life.

The greek word “latreuo” is used where worship is in the form of service to God. This is the practical side of worship, and one that you are also called to. True worship comes out in your actions because it is a way of living. Your valuation of God will affect how you live. You will want to serve Him as you value Him more.

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

– Joshua 24:15

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

– Romans 12:1

Because worship comes from the heart, it can take many external forms. Because whatever you do you are do to for the glory of God (Matthew 6:33, 1 Corinthians 10:31), that means whatever you do is to be an act of worship. Worship can understood as any way that glorifies God in your life, both publicly and privately.

The Anglican wedding ceremony includes the phrase in the vows “with my body I thee worship”. This brings along the idea of worship as an expression of love for God. How can you express love to God? Gary Chapman wrote a book called The Five Love Languages that describes how we show love to our mates. The concept of “love languages” can also be applied to our understanding of how to worship God:

1. WORDS OF AFFIRMATION: This is when you tell God that you appreciate Him and why you do so. It is done both privately and publicly.

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

– Hebrews 13:15

Don’t just say “praise God” – say what for. Give examples. Be specific.

2. QUALITY TIME: This is spending time just being with God. Quiet time is a form of worship as well as corporate worship. Bible study are prayer should be acts of worship.

O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.

– Psalms 63:1

3. RECEIVING GIFTS: When the magi came to worship the child Jesus, they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh ( Matthew 2:11). The Israelites brought gifts to provide materials for the tabernacle (Exodus 35:21). You should also give of what God has given you to support the church.

Some gifts to God are extravagant and may even be viewed as a waste. This is what the concept of sacrificial offering is about.

So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD.

– 2 Samuel 23:16

And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

– Matthew 26:6

This is the meaning of sacrifice: giving irrevocably to God.

The most extravagant gift you can give to God is yourself. Viggo Olsen gave His life to serve as a missionary doctor in Bangladesh. He could have made a very comfortable living practicing medicine in the United States. Many thought his life a waste, but Viggo brought much glory to God through his decision.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

– Romans 12:1

C.T. Studd also gave his life. He was a famous well-off British athlete who gave up everything he owned to become a missionary to Africa:

C.T.Studd before and after

What is a waste in the eyes of man is not necessarily so in the eyes of God.

4. ACTS OF SERVICE: Doing things for God and obeying Him is a form of worship.

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

– 1 John 5:3 (ESV)

Fundamentally, authentic worship is about pursuing that which pleases God, not us. It is about lives lived in service to God and neighbour, lives which are ‘living sacrifices’, which are engaged in God’s work in the world.’

– Steve Bradbury, Target Magazine

5. PHYSICAL TOUCH: Reaching out and serving others is a way to worship God. Jesus said what you do for others is done for Him.

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

– Matthew 25:37-40 (ESV)

What about practical ideas for worshiping God? Well, look at your talents. For example, can you sing and/or play an instrument? Then do so.

Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people.

– Psalms 9:11

“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

– Matthew 25:40

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,

– Ephesians 5:18-19

Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.

– Psalms 33:2

Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!

– Psalm 150:1-6

Not musically inclined? It doesn’t matter. Look for ways to use your talents and gifts to bring glory to God. Doing so will be an act of worship. You can do so anywhere and anytime. For example, go out and help the needy and helpless:

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

– James 1:27

Doing good brings glory to God and is therefore an act of worship.

= = = = = = = = =

Various other passages on worship:

You should worship God even when you don’t feel like it:

Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

– Job 1:20-22

And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

– Acts 16:23-25

Although Paul never mentions the word worship in the book, the subject of Colossians is indeed our acceptable worship of our Creator:

‘Then you will live a life that honours the Lord, and you will always please Him by doing good deeds. You will come to know God even better. His glorious power will make you patient and strong enough to endure anything, and you will be truly happy. I pray that you will be grateful to God for letting you have a part in what He has promised His people in the kingdom of light. God rescued us from the dark power of Satan and brought us into the kingdom of His dear Son, who forgives our sins and sets us free.’ Colossians 1:10-14

‘You have accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord. Now keep following Him. Plant your roots in Christ and let Him be the foundation for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful.’ Colossians 2:2,7

‘Christ gives meaning to your life…. Don’t be controlled by your body…. Don’t be greedy, which is the same as worshipping idols.’ Colossians 3:4,5

‘God loves you and has chosen you as His own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.’ Colossians 3:12-14

‘With thankful hearts we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of Him.’ Colossians 3:16-18

It can be seen from the above texts that the basic reason for Christians to praise and worship God is what He has done through Jesus; He has set us free from the condemnation of sin. The life of a Christian is a celebration of what God has done for us by releasing us from our debt to Him. When this fact is the focus in our lives, everything we do will be a worshipful act.

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